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In re Marriage of Ramundo

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 15, 2019


          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Mary E. Chicchelly, Judge.

         Former spouses appeal and cross-appeal the district court's reduction of the husband's alimony payments.

          Allison M. Heffern and Kerry A. Finley of Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, PLC, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

          Mark D. Fisher and Frank J. Nidey of Nidey Erdahl Fisher Pilkington & Meier, PLC, Cedar Rapids, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.

          TABOR, JUDGE

         Timothy and Lisa Ramundo both challenge a modification to their 2017 dissolution decree decreasing Timothy's monthly spousal support obligation from $4000 to $2750. Timothy asserts changes in the parties' incomes-his decrease and her increase-warrant a total elimination or a more substantial reduction in his alimony payments to Lisa. Lisa cross-appeals, arguing the district court erred in finding her salary increase was a substantial change in circumstances and in reducing the payments. Both parties request appellate attorney fees.

         Finding Lisa's move to full-time employment (and the tripling of her salary) constitutes a substantial change in circumstances, and considering other relevant factors, we affirm the district court's decision to reduce the support obligation.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Timothy and Lisa married in 1992 and divorced after twenty-four years of marriage. At the time of the divorce in 2017, Timothy was fifty-one and Lisa was forty-eight years old. They have three children. Lisa is a civil engineer but, for most of the marriage, she stayed home with the children. Timothy's work in financial services took the family to several locations across the country: New York, North Carolina, Florida, and then Iowa.

         While in Iowa, the parties filed for dissolution of their marriage. Before the decree issued, Timothy informed Lisa and the district court he would soon lose his job due to a company merger. Timothy committed to seeking comparable work but predicted his salary would be substantially lower. At the time of the dissolution, his future salary was unknown. Lisa moved to Slingerlands, New York, and worked part-time as a civil engineer, earning around $32, 000.

         Before the dissolution went to trial, Timothy and Lisa reached an agreement on all aspects of the property division, child custody, and awards of child and spousal support. The court approved and adopted all terms of their stipulation. The parties agreed to joint custody of the children, with Lisa retaining physical care and Timothy exercising visitation. Timothy agreed to pay Lisa $4000 per month in child support with graduated reductions as the children left Lisa's home. The parties acknowledged the amount was an "upward deviation" from the Iowa Child Support Guidelines. The departure related to Lisa's move from Iowa to upstate New York where "the cost of living is substantially higher" and was "part of the parties' overall settlement of property and support issues."

         Timothy also agreed to pay Lisa spousal support of $4000 per month until the parties' middle child graduated from high school. Then Timothy would pay $3000 per month until the youngest child graduated from high school, at which point the obligation would terminate. Thus, Lisa would receive some amount of spousal support until 2028 when she reaches fifty-eight years old.

         As for the property division, both parties came out of the marriage with assets of about $600, 000.

         At the close of the stipulation, the parties stated, "This Agreement constitutes the entire understanding of Timothy and Lisa and there have been no representations or warranties other than those expressly herein set forth."

         The court dissolved the Ramundos' marriage in January 2017. Five months later, Timothy filed for modification: he had been laid off, his new job required relocation to Charlotte, North Carolina, and it paid less than his old job. Timothy estimated his new salary with bonuses at $206, 004. Also since the divorce, Timothy married his girlfriend, Kendis, and they purchased a house in Charlotte for $1, 340, 000. At the hearing, Timothy described the house as an investment and explained the space ...

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